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Interesting Ugandan facts: part one

Ugandans burn banana leaves to help eliminate the smells of the pit latrine.
Ugandans burn banana leaves to help eliminate the smells of the pit latrine.
Jeni Asaba

As I’ve said before, and will probably reiterate for many years to come, being married to a Ugandan has allowed me a treasured inside view into a unique and fascinating culture. Below are a few of the interesting facts I learned during my trip to Africa in August.

PIT LATRINES – “Self-contained” bathrooms are rare in Uganda, so I quickly grew used to the idea of using a pit latrine. Though it's not much more than a hole in the floor, similar to U.S. bathrooms, some are prettier and/or cleaner than others. In order to maintain user-friendly facilities, the girls of the household burn dried banana leaves to eliminate the smell, therefore limiting the number of interested flies. But though the result of this tactic decreases the insect population, it’s important for pit latrine users to be aware that they will never be completely alone. Small lizards are typically close by.

BLOOD DRAINING – Among other intriguing legends, I learned first hand that no one is EVER supposed to stand over an elder. They believe this drains the blood from their heads. Oops!

TEENAGERS – Unlike the majority of American teens, their Ugandan counterparts are responsible for the majority of the household chores. Among other things, the females wash dishes, scrub clothes, sweep/mop, cook and clean the pit latrines. They are also expected to serve meals to visitors and boil water for morning showers. Working equally hard, the teenage males care for the livestock and tend to the farm.

NAMES – In Uganda, everyone has a petty name. I am Abowli, which means “cat-like”. They use their petty names like Americans use their first names. This, in my mind, can become quite confusing since several people share the same name. (There aren’t many petty names to choose from.) Also equally confusing is the name Mukaka. This refers to anyone who is a grandma. Every grandma, great-grandma or great-great-grandma, if someone is so lucky, is called Mukaka.

Click here to read Interesting Ugandan facts: part two for information about a unique teeth preference, corrupt police and more.


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